Encouraging creativity in your business!

Energetic creativity is the difference between mediocre and great managers. But you have to work at it.

Managing for profit by Peter Hughes

Everyone is born with a reservoir of creativity. This is the basis of the huge toy industry, which is supported by parents who keep spending money on toys, Lego, colouring books and jigsaw puzzles, amongst other things, for their children.

It’s a pity that creativity and imagination are not necessarily encouraged throughout our lives; as soon as we enter the school system, rote learning dominates, and slowly many of us extinguish that creative spark!

The importance of creativity
All major innovations in the world are the outcome of great creative energy. Creativity gave us Microsoft, Apple and Samsung, just to name a few. While these companies needed a lot of follow through in the form of business acumen, tenacity and hard work, without the initial creativity of the founders, these companies and many others like them would never have been established.

However, while these global mega-companies come to mind when thinking about examples of present-day creativity, it is important for us as managers to stimulate small acts of creativity in ourselves and our employees on a continuous basis.

Managers who kill creativity cause resentment and disappointment, and destroy motivation. It is the outstanding managers who are able to innovate and continuously recharge their own creativity to encourage the same in their teams.

Don’t kill creativity
Avoid the following to prevent squashing your employees’ creativity:

Applying ‘fake’ time pressure
Unreasonable deadlines are a potent killer of creativity. Creativity needs time, and the ability to ‘sleep on it’, perhaps more than once. “Hard work [under pressure of time] will rob you of your passion for life, and destroy your creative itch,” says Stephen Robins in The Importance of Being Idle (Prion Books).

It’s a fact that when the pressure is on, the body’s instinctive response is ‘fight, flight or freeze’. This is not conducive to problem solving. If you need a creative solution to a problem, give yourself and those working on it quiet, uninterrupted time.

Building a homogeneous team
If you’re looking for a creative way to do something better, faster and cheaper, appoint a small team of people to find the solution. Select the participants carefully: you need diversity and representatives from different levels in the organisation.

As greater creativity often comes from outside rather than inside, appoint someone from outside the organisation to join the team. While a team of like-minded people might get back to you sooner, it’s unlikely that there will be a creative solution from them.

Building fear of failure
Everyone needs to feel free to ask ‘silly questions’ or come up with suggestions that might seem childlike, without the slightest risk of ridicule.

Peddling pessimism
Negativity is the enemy of creativity, so keep away from chronic pessimists. Pessimists often communicate in destructive ways, and undermine their own and others’ attempts at creative thinking.

Too much information
Creativity involves being well informed, but not being overwhelmed by too much information. When overloaded, the brain simply can’t cope, and will stick with ‘safer’ options, rather than testing new ideas.

Never taking time out to travel
Make it a rule in your organisation that everyone with managerial responsibility has to travel out of the region and visit a related business at least every six months.

It must be a visit to a new location, where the manager meets someone never met before.

The day-to-day routine of handling the essential, but often mundane, repetitive tasks of running a business numbs the mind. A trip away provides a regular dose of perspective, which is needed to kick- start and encourage creativity